Sunday, May 20, 2007

May 20th Log

2006, Darren Aronofsky, United States

1st Viewing, DVD

Darren Aronofsky gained a large fan base after his first two features (Pi and Requiem for a Dream). Now after six highly anticipated years comes the release of his third film, The Fountain. Whether or not all of his fans will appreciate this is questionable, but there is no denying the daring artistic achievement of his ambition. Not as flashy as his previous features, The Fountain is to me Aronofsky’s finest film. It is an unforgettable cinematic journey of originality almost completely unseen in contemporary American film- let alone from a mainstream Hollywood studio. The Fountain is made with an epic vision. Told in three separate non-linear narratives the film begins a bit confusing, but as it settles everything actually becomes much more cohesive then you would anticipate from such a largely scaled narrative. Taking place over three time periods (16th century, modern 21st century, and futuristic 26th century) the film becomes an awe-inspiring, metaphysical journey for eternal life- as we follow one man’s eternal struggle to save the woman he loves. Blending elements of science-fiction, romance, and melodrama (as well as incorporating spiritual aspects of all religions- notably Buddhism) The Fountain becomes a deeply philosophical, and spiritual study of enduring love, eternal life, and death. In The Fountain we are taken on an exploration of death rarely shown in film. Aronofsky explores the philosophical depths of eternal life (both physically and spiritually). In all three stories, Thomas (played by Hugh Jackman) sees death as a disease or as something to be conquered (be it as a warrior, a scientist, or an astronaut). What Thomas misses is the love that is in the moment. Through Rachel Weisz (his real life wife) Aronofsky captures grace or “awe” in death, of which she accepts rather then fears. Through her transcends the profound spiritual message of the film. A film that is a profoundly unforgettable journey and a remarkable achievement of filmmaking all around (be it in the direction; performances; visual style and special effects; or the beautifully composed musical score). Many will be turned off by the seemingly “pretentious” techniques of Aronofsky’s filmmaking, but I found myself fully engrossed in what is a cinematic experience. A bold accomplishment to celebrate and embrace on many levels. I can understand this film not appealing to mass audiences, but I applaud a major studio like Warner Brothers for giving a mainstream audience an opportunity to see it, because even if opinions vary, The Fountain is a film that deserves to be seen. I will certainly cherish the film as a masterpiece!

1954, Anthony Mann, United States
Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

The Far Country does not quite reach the mastery level of Anthony Mann’s previous psychological westerns starring James Stewart (notably his greatest masterworks The Naked Spur and Bend of the River- both of which were co-written by Bordon Chase, who also wrote The Far Country). The Far Country marked the sixth of eight films Mann with Stewart. Each of them share distinct qualities visually, emotionally, and thematically. Stewart again plays the role of the loner anti-hero, but this role may be the darkest of all. As Jeff Webster, Stewart plays a self-interested man that trusts no one and is not looking to gain any new friends outside of the only man he trusts (played by the always terrific Walter Brennan). Mann again presents many layers of psychological depth with the corruption of greed lying at the center. Mann began making low-budget noirs in the 1940s and while these films are much more personal, The Far Country captures some elements of noir within the genre of a western adventure. Above all, Mann presents his psychological and philosophical world through atmosphere and landscape, here using the hills of Canada as the backdrop. For The Far Country, Mann uses the great cinematographer William H. Daniels, whom he collaborated with on the wonderful black-and-white classic Winchester ’73. Daniels Technicolor cinematography presents a stunning landscape which beautifully works as the background for Mann’s controlling direction of frame. The Far Country builds a compelling mood and the performances only heighten the impact. Stewart and Brennan are terrific as usual and especially standout is John McIntire as the corrupt Sheriff Gannon.


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